Friday, August 23, 2013

Ferragosto in Agosto!

Ferragosto has a religious connection with the Assumption of Mary (I don't know what that means), but Ferragosto is basically just like an Italian version of Thanksgiving where no one works, everything is closed, and everyone eats A LOT while hanging out with family and friends.  For missionaries, it means one thing: DEEP CLEANING.  Sorella O and I spent something like 6 hours cleaning.  Our apartment looks great.  But in the afternoon, we were invited to pronzo at a member's home, Sorella Seu, who lives in Villasimius (GORGEOUS beach town).  Sorella Seu is the only member in her family.
Ferragosto at Sorella Seu's House
A lot of family and friends were there.  The food was good of course - pasta, maialetta, bruschetta, and tiramisu ice cream (with cocoa instead of coffee, of course).  The most interesting part of the afternoon was when Sorella O and I got kissed - NOT OUR FAULT.
Eating watermelon at Ferragosto
A slightly drunk member of the family decided he was going to get kisses from the missionaries as a gratuity for his cutting of the watermelon.  So, he cut the watermelon, asked for us to kiss him, we said, "Sorry, it's against mission rules," and he yelled, "Well, you can't, BUT I CAN!" and then planted a big ol' baci on both my and Sorella O's cheeks (luckily it was just the cheek).  Sorella O turned bright red.  The elders just looked at us like, 'Your problem, not ours!'
with Fratello Locci (Ward Mission Leader) and family
"When is the Soonest I Can Be Baptized?"
Maria Rita and Giuseppina came to Church on Sunday!  I was so happy.  Maria rita wore a dress for the first time.  She looked lovely.  The members really welcomed them.  Giuseppina made some great friends among the Relief Society sisters, who invited them to the ward BBQ they are having this Friday.  Then Tuesday we had a lesson with them.  Normally, we meet them in the park, but a strange bout of sprinkling rain caused us move our discussion to the Church building instead.  Turns out, it was a tactical move on Heaven's part because of what happened during the discussion.
Chapel in Cagliari
Sorella O took the picture. That's me in the green
Maria Rita asked, "When should I be baptized?" We turned it around and asked her what date she felt good about (since she was uncomfortable with the last set date).  Because we were at the Church, we decided to show her the baptismal font and baptismal clothes, and walked her through what to expect.  She loved it, saying it made her feel really happy.  "I'm convinced," she said.  "When is the soonest I can be baptized?"  The soonest is September 1st, which is the last Sunday before transfers.

The member who was at the appointment advocated caution (the Branch has had several newly-baptized members go inactive for various reasons).  She emphasized that this was a big commitment to the Lord of time and effort, as she explained callings and visiting teaching etc.  "Pick a date," we told Maria Rita, "and pray to Heavenly Father about it."  Giuseppina was advised to do the same, but we think she needs a little more time.  Maria Rita is basically ready.  She has a testimony and is being very thoughtful about this.  She is living the things we have taught her, and is committed to do so from now on.  The Lord knows better than any of us what is right for her.  Sorella O is concerned about being transferred away before the baptism happens, but, in the end, she knows that it doesn't matter if she is there or not.  But, it's still difficult - we have so little time left!  Anyway, the next scheduled date with them is Thursday evening when we'll watch The Restoration and testify about the Prophet Joseph Smith.  We are hoping that seeing the story of Joseph Smith take place will help flourish Giuseppina's testimony.  We just love them so much!

The Nef!
For some reason, the nickname "The Nef" has followed me and my siblings throughout school years.  I simply attributed it to the fact of brothers and sisters with a brief last name attending the same schools.  The nickname, however, became a Twilight Zone-ish kind of thing when, out of the blue, my District in the MTC began calling me "The Nef."  They didn't call me Sister Nef or Sorella Nef.  No.  I was lovingly given the title of The Nef.  Now, somehow, the phenomenon has followed me to Italy.  Again, not my doing.  Maria Rita calls me "Questa Nef" (This Nef).  So funny!  I grammatically went from an article (The) to a determiner (This).  Is that a promotion?

English Course Students
with English Course student, Sandro
Sicilian born, he speaks great English (with a Brooklyn accent!)
with English Course Students
English Course Students
The Miracle of English Course
I must tell you about two new investigators that came from our English Course, Rita (a mom) and Sara (the 14 year-old daughter).  In class, we passed out a survey to the students, asking if they were interested in any of our services, and had listed a few options, including "Approfondimento e applicazione delle scritture nella vita" (Explanation and application of the scriptures in life).  Sara, the daughter, checked this one.  So we had called her up, set up an appointment, and met with them for the first time last week to get to know them better and see what they had in mind for these meetings.  Both Rita and Sara showed up, and we talked a little about the bible and its purpose, and connected it to the Book of Mormon, testified about it, and asked if they would like to know more.  "Sure," they said, "but can you bring more people to the meeting so it won't be just us?"  I think we could arrange that!  So we set an appointment for Monday this week and we invited a member and her daughter (who is also 14 years old) to join us :) .

So we have this lesson, still not really knowing Rita and Sara's intent, but we planned a powerful Lesson 1 on the Restoration of the Church.  We gave the complete lesson, as it says in Preach My Gospel, emphasizing the importance of prophets and how we can know for ourselves through the Book of Mormon.  The members we invited bore great testimonies about how they came to know the Church was true (the Spirit was strong).  The Spirit was probably the most powerful as we told the story of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the First Vision, which I had the privilege of sharing.  Rita and Sara were riveted.  Rita also talked about how she has been a faithful Catholic, but the church she usually attends has recently changed priests, and it just isn't the same.  She can't pay attention, no one likes to come anymore, and there really isn't anything she feels tying her there anymore.  At the end of the discussion, we gave them their own copies of the Book of Mormon (which they were happy to get), and asked if they would read and pray to know of its truth.  They said yes.  Rita agreed to say the closing prayer, and in her prayer she said she believed everything we said, including the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, but she would read it to know for herself.  Sorella O and I were astounded at her faith to already believe!  We really hope for the best for her and Sara!  The members also invited them to the Branch BBQ - GO MEMBERS!  FELLOWSHIP!

Mostre on the Bastione
This week we had our Mostre (display) on the Bastione St. Remy, which has the most GORGEOUS view ever of the city!
Here are a couple of our displays:
"Where did I come from?"  "Why am I here?"
"Where am I going after this life?"
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints"

Ragazzi at the Mostre
The first night we were really nervous because the Bastione is very tourist-dense, and though I speak Italian really well, I don't speak Spanish or Polish or Romanian or German - which is where most of the tourists were from.  But after a little bit, a giant crowd of ragazzi (teenagers) who had been drinking and smoking came up and started asking questions.
Ragazzi on Bastione St. Remy
Speaking with ragazzi.
Those are our legs behind the picture of Christ

Legit questions - they were interested.  In the end, we gave out every copy of the Book of Mormon we had, which still wasn't enough, and got the phone number of one girl so we could stop by her home and give her one directly.  Super cool!

Paparazzi While Proselyting
So, while at the Mostre, there was a photographer who began taking pictures of us.  Here they are:
He said, "Wow, you two have beautiful eyes," as he parked his lens a few inches from our noses and began shooting (uncomfortable).  He gave us his business card and said he'd post the pics on Facebook.  I think we made a friend.
The Photographer created this Advertisement
"The California Sisters at the Bastione"

Sunset at the Bastione
From the Bastione you can witness some of the most gorgeous sunsets with sky hues of purple, orange, hot pink, red, and the bright moon shining over the sparkling sea.  Stunning.

It's been a week of celebration, of getting together with family and friends for laughter, fun, and eating. The week has also brought a spiritual feast:
     •  Less-actives who we've been working with are now coming to Church again regularly.
     •  Visiting members, we had lessons with their family who are not baptized.
     •  Mostre on the Bastione was fruitful.
     •  Two new faithful investigators.
     •  Maria Rita and Giuseppina are praying to know when to enter into the family and fold of God.
Now, that's something to celebrate!  Buon Ferragosto.

Questa Nef,
Sorella Ashley Nef

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